Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
Donald Trump recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He’s slated to make it official in a White House speech, upending decades of US foreign policy, despite Arab leaders warning it could fatally disrupt the peace process. Trump also plans to eventually move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
A former VW official is sentenced in the emissions scandal. Under a plea agreement, Oliver Schmidt, previously head of an environmental and engineering center at Volkswagen, faces hefty fines and up to seven years in prison for his role in the carmaker’s emissions scandal. In August he admitted to conspiring to mislead regulators and violate clean air laws.
India, Brazil, and Canada make interest rate decisions. The Reserve Bank of India is expected to keep rates steady, despite criticism from Narendra Modi’s government that it’s hurting the economy. Analysts expect Brazil to cut its benchmark rate to a record low of 7%, down by more than half from last year, while experts are split on whether Canada will nudge rates higher.
A secret diary of Japan’s Emperor Hirohito is auctioned in New York. The document, dictated to aides after the end of World War II, covers events from 1928 to 1945 and was written at the request of US general Douglas MacArthur.
While you were sleeping
The International Olympic Committee banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Games for state-sponsored doping. The unprecedented punishment comes after a series of bombshells about officials’ systematic attempts to cheat at the 2014 Sochi games, including tampering with urine samples to remove evidence of steroid use. Some individual Russian athletes may be allowed to compete while wearing neutral uniforms.
Bitcoin surpassed $12,000 for the first time. The cryptocurrency reached new heights amid speculation that the widespread use of futures will lead to digital currencies being considered a legitimate asset class for mainstream investors. Observers warned the speculative frenzy is a dangerous bubble waiting to burst.
Google blocked YouTube access from Amazon streaming devices. It made YouTube unavailable on Amazon’s Echo Show, and said it will do the same for Fire TV from Jan. 1. Google complained the online retailer failed to make Amazon Prime Video available on Google gadgets and stopped the sale of home-automation products by Nest—part of Google parent Alphabet—on its website.
Johnny Hallyday passed away. France’s biggest rock star died at the age of 74 from lung cancer. During his life he sold about 100 million records, starred in various films, and was made a Chevalier of the Legion D’Honneur by president Jacques Chirac in 1997.
Quartz obsession interlude
Heather Timmons on the three ultra-rich families battling for control of the Republican party. “American historians see a titanic clash on the horizon. What’s coming next is a battle between ‘the very idea of democracy, and that human beings are created equal’ against the notion that power in America should be concentrated in the hands of a very few, very wealthy people, just as it once was in medieval Europe.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Bitcoin may be standing in the way of clean energy. The cryptocurrency’s massive carbon footprint is ridiculously unsustainable.
Women still can’t win when it comes to taking maternity leave. New moms—particularly powerful CEOs—are scrutinized about their leave choices in a way men will never be.
Skyscrapers are out, landscrapers are in. Buildings like Google’s massive London headquarters make life easier for drones, but would require new horizontal “elevators.”
Republicans accidentally killed a favorite tax break of big business. In a mad scramble to approve legislation that lowers corporate taxes, the Senate eliminated a treasured credit for corporate R&D.
The Icelandic translation of Dracula is an entirely different book. Makt Myrkranna (Powers of Darkness) is, by some accounts, better (and “markedly sexier”) than Bram Stoker’s original.
A time capsule was found in a statue of Jesus. Two letters found in its hollow buttocks will help historians understand daily life in 18th-century Spain.
The International Space Station had its first pizza party. Thanks to a surprise ingredient shipment, astronauts spun pies in zero gravity and called them “unexpectedly delicious.”
An AI metal band shredded like a human one. Programmers fed a real album through a neural network, and
Coditany of Timeness was born.
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